Cold Bay Airport
|Cold Bay Airport
Cold Bay Air Force Station
Fort Randall Army Airfield
|IATA: CDB – ICAO: PACD – FAA LID: CDB
– WMO: 70316
|Owner||State of Alaska DOT&PF - Central Region|
|Serves||Cold Bay, Alaska|
|Elevation AMSL||102 ft / 31 m|
Cold Bay Airport (IATA: CDB, ICAO: PACD, FAA LID: CDB) is a state owned, public use airport located in Cold Bay, a city in the Aleutians East Borough of the U.S. state of Alaska. First built as a United States Army Air Forces airfield during World War II, it is one of the main airports serving the Alaska Peninsula. Scheduled passenger service is available and air taxi operators fly in and out of the airport daily.
According to Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) records, the airport had 9,105 passenger boardings (enplanements) in calendar year 2008, 8,968 enplanements in 2009, and 9,261 in 2010. It is included in the National Plan of Integrated Airport Systems for 2011–2015, which categorized it as a "non-primary commercial service" airport, meaning it has between 2,500 and 10,000 enplanements per year.
Cold Bay 's main runway is the fifth-largest in Alaska and was built during World War II. Today, it is used for scheduled cargo flights by Alaska Central Express and Evergreen International Airlines and is sometimes used as an emergency diversion airport for passenger flights crossing the Pacific Ocean.
A myth describes Cold Bay Airport as an alternate landing site for Space Shuttles, but the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) has stated that it was never so designated, and it was not within the entry crossrange capability of Space Shuttles.
There is a National Weather Service (NWS) office (which sends up radiosonde balloons twice a day) colocated with the FAA Flight Service Station at the airport. The NWS ranks Cold Bay as the cloudiest city in the United States.
The airport was constructed during World War II as Fort Randall Army Airfield during the secret military buildup of the Territory of Alaska that began in 1941. Disguised as civilian employees of the Blair Canning and Packing Company, United States Army personnel in civilian clothes were shipped to Cold Bay. Construction began in December 1941, and the airfield was ready for operation by March 1942. Because of the foresight of Alaska 's military commanders, the new airfield, along with another new secret airfield, Cape Field at Umnak, was ready to contribute to the defense of Alaska against Imperial Japanese Navy air attack during the Battle of Dutch Harbor in June 1942. The airfield at Cold Bay remained operational throughout World War II.
Known units assigned to Fort Randall Army Airfield (AAF) were:
- 73d Bombardment Squadron, numerous short dates, 1942–1943
- 344th Fighter Squadron, numerous short dates, 1942–1943
- 54th Fighter Squadron, June–July 1942
- 11th Fighter Squadron, May–September 1942
Fort Randall AAF was also used by the United States Navy during the Aleutian campaign. A two-gun 6-inch (152-mm) naval gun battery was located at Grant Point. One gun is on display near the town dump. A four-gun 155 mm gun battery on Panama mounts was located at Mortensen's Lagoon at Thin Point. The HECP bunker still exists at Pride Lake.
In the spring and summer of 1945, Cold Bay was the site of the largest and most ambitious transfer program of World War II, Project Hula, in which the United States transferred 149 ships and craft to the Soviet Union and trained 12,000 Soviet personnel in their operation in anticipation of the Soviet Union entering the war against Japan. Fort Randall provided housing and classroom space for the instructors and trainees. At any given time, about 1,500 American personnel were at Cold Bay and Fort Randall during Project Hula.
The airfield was named Thornbrough Air Force Base in 1948 for Captain George W. Thornbrough, a U.S. Army Air Forces B-26 Marauder pilot. Captain Thornbrough fought during the Battle of Dutch Harbor in June 1942, bravely attacking a Japanese aircraft carrier that was launching strike aircraft at Dutch Harbor. Although his torpedo struck the carrier, it failed to explode. Captain Thornbrough returned to his airfield to refuel and rearm and then took off to rejoin the fight. The aircraft and entire crew were lost during their return from this mission, when they were unable to land at Cold Bay. The wreckage of Captain Thornbrough's aircraft was found 50 miles (80 km) from Cold Bay on the north side of the Alaska Peninsula the following month.
It was redesignated from Army Air Base (AAB) to an Air Force Base (AFB) on 28 March 1948 along with seven other Army Air Bases in Alaska. Its chief assets were a 10,000-foot runway and a deep-water dock. It was controlled by the 5024th Air Base Squadron, Alaskan Air Command (AAC). It was logistically supported by the 39th Air Depot Wing at Elmendorf Air Force Base. Its mission became supporting Military Air Transport Service (MATS) transport flights along the Great Circle Route from Japan, as well as supporting the 7th (later 9th) Weather Group which provided support for WB-29 Superfortress flights of the 58th Weather Reconnaissance Squadron at Eielson AFB which operated over the Northern Pacific and Bearing Sea. Both the runway and dock have continued in service to this day serving as transportation hubs for airlines and shipping.
The 5042d ABS was discontinued on 1 January 1950 per AAC General Order Number 198, dated 13 December 1949, due to budget restrictions. Control of the base was taken over directly by AAC. It was planned for inactivation; however, the transport demands by MATS flying to Japan to support the Korean War delayed the inevitable closing of the base until 1 September 1953 by AAC General Order 66.
Between 1956 and 1958, Cold Bay Airport was used as a logistics support base during the construction of Cold Bay Air Force Station, a Ground Control Intercept (GCI) station for Alaskan Air Command during the Cold War. Today, the airport is used by the USAF 611th Air Support Group, based at Elmendorf AFB to support the unattended Long Range Radar (LRR) site A-08 just to the northwest of the airport.
Facilities and aircraft
Cold Bay Airport has two asphalt paved runways: 14/32 is 10,415 by 150 feet (3,174 x 46 m) and 8/26 is 6,235 by 150 feet (1,900 x 46 m). For the 12-month period ending January 1, 2011, the airport had 9,210 aircraft operations, an average of 25 per day: 63% air taxi, 29% scheduled commercial, 5% military, and 2% general aviation.
Airlines and destinations
The following airlines offer scheduled passenger service at this airport:
On October 30, 2013 a Delta Airlines Boeing 767-300 on the flight from Tokyo to San Francisco landed on the airport due to an engine shut-down. Onboard were 167 passengers and 11 crew members; all of them were able to leave the aircraft without any injuries. 
- FAA Airport Master Record for CDB ( PDF). Federal Aviation Administration. Effective April 5, 2012.
- "Enplanements for CY 2008" (PDF, 1.0 MB). CY 2008 Passenger Boarding and All-Cargo Data. Federal Aviation Administration. December 18, 2009.
- "Enplanements for CY 2010" (PDF, 189 KB). CY 2010 Passenger Boarding and All-Cargo Data. Federal Aviation Administration. October 4, 2011.
- "2011–2015 NPIAS Report, Appendix A" (PDF, 2.03 MB). National Plan of Integrated Airport Systems. Federal Aviation Administration. October 4, 2010.
- "Continental trans-Pacific flight makes emergency landing". The Associated Press. 2004-10-19. Archived from the original on 2004-10-19.
- Russell, Richard A., Project Hula: Secret Soviet-American Cooperation in the War Against Japan, Washington, D.C.: Naval Historical Center, 1997, ISBN 0-945274-35-1, pp. 1, 13, 16, 35.
- "ASN Aircraft accident McDonnell Douglas DC-8-63CF N802WA Cold Bay, AK". Aviation Safety Network.
- This article incorporates public domain material from websites or documents of the Air Force Historical Research Agency.
- Maurer, Maurer (1983). Air Force Combat Units Of World War II. Maxwell AFB, Alabama: Office of Air Force History. ISBN 0-89201-092-4.
- Maurer, Maurer (1969), Combat Squadrons of the Air Force, World War II, Air Force Historical Studies Office, Maxwell AFB, Alabama. ISBN 0-89201-097-5
- (PDF), effective February 5, 2015
- FAA Terminal Procedures for Cold Bay (CDB), effective February 5, 2015
- FAA Alaska airport diagram (GIF)
- Topographic map from USGS The National Map
- Historic American Buildings Survey (HABS) No. AK-46, "Fort Randall, Cold Bay, Aleutian Islands, AK"
- HABS No. AK-46-A, "Fort Randall, Neuro-Psychiatric Ward"
- HABS No. AK-46-B, "Fort Randall, Latrine & Bath"
- HABS No. AK-46-C, "Fort Randall, Theater"
- Resources for this airport:
- Military history
- The Thousand Mile War
- Joe McCusker's list of Air Force Bases
- A History of the Air Force Heritage in Alaska
- B-26 Marauder Archive
- North American Forts